I spent 9 days exploring the Sultanate of Oman courtesy of Oman Tourism.
Many countries of the world don’t put such a high demand on items that alter the natural scent of the human body. Since I knew practically nothing about Oman before traveling there, I naively had the preconceived notion that it might be one of those places.
Only I learned on arrival from our group leader that the situation was exactly the opposite in Oman, and people there pride themselves on smelling of beautiful, rich fragrances. In fact, it’s an integral part of their culture that, straight from birth, the Omani people are adorned in unique aromas, such as rose oil, frankincense and sandalwood — fragrances that us Westerners might consider unusual. But it doesn’t stop there. The use of perfumery turns into a form of artistic self expression. Omani people learn the art of layering different scents according to seasons, occasions and mood; fragrances are applied to the person, hair, clothing and smoked into the air.
Men also take an active part in the process of smelling nice. In hopes of encountering random whiffs of appealing scents, those little tassels that hang off the front of the dishdasha are often dipped in a fragrance of something simple like rose oil, or something more luxurious, like the famed fragrances of Amouage.
Our press trip itinerary included a stop at the factory of Amouage, the Muscat home of the world’s most valuable perfume, or as the website states, “The gift of kings.” While a perfume factory tour might not sound like the most exciting activity…
I was absolutely, positively floored.
You see, I’ve been working on a side project that started with a simple idea at the beginning of the year. With a dream of creating a travel-focused product, I finally decided to tackle a solid perfume stick (called AROAMAS), and in order to do so, I had to find and choose pleasant fragrances.
So began the task. Prior to heading to Oman, I had my nose in dozens of different fragrance oils, making sure to pick apart, like a fine wine, the notes creating the top, middle and base of a scent. I read descriptions for designer perfumes and would devour the fragrance sections in the shopping malls to give my nose a further workout. It started to become apparent that the fragrances that really made me want to smell more were the complex ones with earthy elements.
Which brings us to Amouage.
Amouage is a luxury brand of perfume that draws its inspiration from the traditional smells of the Sultanate of Oman. Started in 1983, the main goal of this brand was to bring life to the frankincense industry, which acts as a key note in the fragrance line. Combined with bottle caps resembling a traditional Omani dagger handle, Amouage has produced a product that is also a cultural symbol.
With a luxury brand that claims to be, “The gift of kings,” and one that rich people from across the Middle East stock up on and then proceed to essentially bathe in, I expected nothing less than an entrance lined with a sparkly gold pool and reflective metal awning.
We were first brought into a room that let us learn about the complexities of Amouage fragrances, those of which were broken down into individual scents. A station full of ingredients allowed us to get a closer sniff at both the individual notes involved in the perfume process and how unique these Middle Eastern perfumes are compared to what I’m used to smelling back home.
Although we were given but a taste of the scents (maybe a dozen or so sniffer jars), the Amouage line is actually concocted from 120 natural ingredients, with a large focus on the gifts from the East: frankincense and myrrh.
After our introduction to the line and the idea behind it, we moved on to the factory portion of the tour. We were unable to photograph the workers themselves, but do believe that each and every perfume is bottled by hand. A note with the name of the individual worker that carefully finished the product is included with each package for a cute and personal touch.
Finally, the actual product is presented, and at this point I’m engrossed in anticipation. The last room on the tour is laden with bottles of the Amouage line, both masculine and feminine scents, and we are given scent strips of each and every one to sample. After that, we are encouraged to wear the fragrances to see how they mesh with our personal chemistries and change over time. That’s the beauty of perfumery: It’s unique. It evolves. We wear fragrances differently depending on how they react with our own bodies and skin types. Scents change as top notes fade and middle and bottom notes stick. Some women actually wear the masculine version of the fragrances better because of these points.
The experience was one that stuck with me more than most given my recent obsession with perfumes, but also simply because I discovered some eclectic fragrances that, in my opinion, smell just as beautiful (if not more) than those traditional ones lining the shelves at the local mall in America or Australia and so on. If I could have afforded the over $100 price tag for a bottle, I would have invested in a luxury fragrance from Amouage (these prices get up to nearly $300 a bottle in Australia – yes, something I’d only own if gifted), but I am definitely lucky to have been sent home with several free samples.
They are a little piece of Oman, right here in Sydney.
Have you ever had the pleasure of smelling the perfumes of Amouage?